When protests for reforms started against President Yahya Jammeh’s rule in mid-April, everyone thought those that took part would be rounded up, tortured, executed and if lucky prosecuted. They were right. Security forces opened fire on the unarmed protesters, beating them with batons and throwing tear gas at the crowd. At least three people died; that was expected too. What no one expected though was the arrest of a nursing mother for showing solidarity with those being prosecuted in Banjul for exercising their inalienable constitutional right.
Section 25, sub-section 1(D) of the 1997 republican constitution of The Gambia states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of assemble and demonstrate peaceably and without arms. But with no regards to the constitution, the regime in The Gambia is so repressive and uses fear and intimidation, arbitrary arrest, extra judicial execution and torture to censor dissent.
It is the first protest to erupt in mainland Africa’s tiniest nation, 16 years after a broad daylight Sharpeville-type of massacre of students who were protesting the rape and the torture-death of their colleagues.
A regime with a hallmark of sparing no one
But the regime in its hallmark of sparing no one took Kaddy Samateh and her month old baby, Aisha into custody. Days later, Kaddy’s husband, Modou Fatty was arrested by state security forces. The couple are being prosecuted for rioting, inciting violence, and conspiracy.
Outside the court in the industrial town of Kanifing, Kaddy was released on bail with six other women who were showing solidarity with the #GambiaRising protesters. The women are seen as symbolic figure in the quest to end President Yahya Jammeh’s rule. They held a calabash-cup made out of pumpkins at one of their many protests, demanding President Jammeh to resign. It gave them the name the women of the #KalamaRevolution. It has never been seen before and no one expected that in 2016, anyone will go back to their homes for holding signs that describe Jammeh as a ‘dictator’ in a nation that sent a former minister to jail for life for printing t-shirts that says ‘end dictatorship now.’
As they beat and arrested the women who were coming from the courts that day, Kaddy holding her one month old Aisha was not spared. She was yanked into a waiting police truck and taken into one of the world’s worst prisons, Mile II, in the outskirts of the capital, Banjul. In Mile II, many prisoners died because it was congested, the food they ate was expired and they slept on cardboards. There are no proper bathrooms either.
A dictatorship that once had the support of women
Baby Aisha had to endure this and her mother’s incarceration made the #GambiaRising protests a moral fight for freedom for all women – that no woman and no child should go through this ever. But activists say living in The Gambia is living in an open prison. Since 1994, when Jammeh came to power through a military coup, women were his main supporters but he is losing that support. His wife, a Moroccan, Zineb Suma Jammeh has recently being seen visiting women markets and gardens to garner support ahead of this year’s presidential polls. Madam Jammeh has been accused of reckless spending for going on shopping sprees in malls around Washington D.C., and staying at their $3.5 million Potomac mansion some miles from the Whites House in a Maryland suburb.
Many have been arrested in this country's bizarre dictatorship that no one ever heard of. Anyone could be arrested next but Kaddy Samateh’s detention with Aisha leaves one quietly asking whose wife, mother and baby are next. It is not the first time a lactating mother was incarcerated with her child in The Gambia. A precedent was set for this. Journalist Sarata Jabbi who now lives in the United Kingdom was sent to the same Mile II prison with her one year old son she was breastfeeding. A scared nation stayed quite on it but the #GambiaRising protest might just change that. #World Politics #Government #Foreign Affairs